It has been a few weeks since my last post. I’ve been busy. I attended the annual conference for landscape architects in Washington DC early this month. Two days later I headed out to Fresno, to start a new HALS documentation job. I was asked to prepare a HALS short form for Roeding Park – a 156 acre regional park in the Central Valley. Roeding Park is both a park and an arboretum. The man who donated the land to the City of Fresno, Frederick Christian Roeding and his son, George Christian Roeding were important figures in the state’s rich agricultural history, and owned and operated Fancher Creek Nursery. FC Roeding provided most of the trees for the new park and was very engaged in the park’s design as a Fresno Park Commissioner. He worked with landscape architect, Johannes Reimers, in the early 1900s, and together they created a community park that continues to be cared for and well used by “Fresnans”.
The park has much to offer. There is a tremendous variety of mature trees – exceptional specimens and small groves. These provide essential shade and stunning settings for picnicking. The picnicking facilities are almost endless – there are three group picnic areas with rustic-style shelters, large enough to house 7 twenty-foot long picnic tables at each. There are other group picnic areas without structures but shaded by trees. These are called The Eucalyptus Grove, Pine Grove and Cedar Grove picnic areas. There are also picnic areas for small groups, and isolated tables for a single family or couple.
The park has two dance floors with stages and lighting, there are 8 horseshoe pits, two tot lots with climbing structures, and a tennis complex with 14 tennis courts and one handball court. My favorite part of the park is the lily ponds. Just inside the main entry off Belmont Avenue Reimers designed five ponds, each has a curvilinear edge and all are shaded by a variety of canopy trees. Simple wooden bridges link one pond to the next. There is no formal path, so one feels invited to meander or sit, enjoying the cool shade and watching children fish from the edge.
The pond furthest from the entry, and near one corner of the park, has an ornate basin set on a pedestal, in the middle of the pond. A jet of water shoots up about 15 feet in the air above the basin. This too is lighted and is visible to people in cars driving by at night.
Lake Washington was constructed in another portion of the park. This is a single, large body of water with three jets and the remnants of what was once an island – before Highway 99 was built and cut off a portion of the lake and island. The lake is surrounded by lawn and trees and there is a monument to President George Washington, that was installed to commemorate the 200th anniversary of his birth. At the time the monument was dedicated, Fresno school children raised funds for, and helped plant more than 600 trees of over 300 types, in the park.
In 1955, the local Rotary gave funds to build Playland – an amusement park with rides, a miniature train, merry-go-round, and boat rides. Then in 1962, Storyland was added for young children. This fairytale themed area is very similar to Oakland’s “Fairyland” – see my January 24, 2010 blog post.
A zoo was added to the park in the 1920s and over the years has expanded several times. Currently, there are plans to expand the zoo again. It is clear that they need more space to accommodate their program, but I question the loss of park / arboretum space, which today is being used and obviously much enjoyed by many groups and families. Where will all the picnickers go? The family bar-b-ques, the casual strollers, the youthful fishing fans, the dog park users? Hum.